Coordinating daily operational requirements and working out strategies for the future are top small business concerns. From day-to-day purchasing, staffing, and logistics decisions to laying a foundation facilitating growth and expansion, owners actively manage various aspects of their ventures. Though their hands may be full tending to widespread professional responsibilities, business owners are also accountable for workplace culture.

As work force values and expectations shift, managing workplace conditions and culture requires the same proactive approach applied to other aspects of your small business.

Clearer Focus on Workplace Culture

Despite being a critical factor to the success of small businesses, propelling positive workplace culture has historically taken a back seat to other pressing concerns. Focus is shifting, however, as more firms recognize their responsibility facilitating a work atmosphere reflecting the values and preferences of the evolving work force.

Small businesses are prioritizing business culture and taking a more active role managing the matter, because a new demographic of young workers has a different set of expectations about professional culture than traditional, formal, corporate norms. Workplace standards are also getting more attention due to low unemployment; the shrinking the labor pool makes it harder for some small businesses to recruit and retain top talent.

Responding to the evolving work force and current hiring conditions, 25 percent of business owners surveyed in a fall Bank of America study indicated they are shifting toward a more flexible business culture, in order to attract higher quality job candidates. It appears old-school corporate culture is on the way out, ushering in staff-friendly philosophies and practices that are better aligned with members of the emerging work force.

Responding to New Expectations

Sprout Funding logoTrends favoring casual workplace attire and better use of technology are a good start, adapting to the “new” work force, but there’s more to accommodating the evolving labor pool than relaxing your dress code. Your latest hires may want laptops and mobile support, so they’re not tethered to their desks full-time, but members of the modern talent pool expect more than that from employers. A rising number of employers recognize these essential expectations, shared by many new hires.

  • Career Growth Potential – The millennial work force doesn’t like stagnation, so it is important for the group to learn and develop through employment, rather than simply put in their time and bring home a paycheck.
  • Work-Life Balance – Dedication aside, the young work force values its independence, expecting employers to accommodate an agreeable work-life balance. Remote work opportunities, ample personal time off, and company backed services that make life easier, are a few of the ways employers meet this expectation.
  • Open Communication – Members of the modern work force expect their employers to be transparent.
  • A Role Guiding the Company – The new labor force isn’t content sitting back, watching things unfold. Young workers want to play a role, shaping the future of the organization. And they want to be included in the decision-making process.

Less tied to the rigid corporate structures of the past, many modern employers accept that checking email, texting, and even searching online are parts of their employees’ lives that may cross over into the workplace. And that progressive employment values aren’t reserved for the youngest members of the team – Baby Boomers and members of Generation X also expect to stay connected with their personal lives during the workday.

It isn’t enough to simply articulate employment policies that speak to progressive workplace culture – employees want to see your organization in action, projecting their shared values. As a result, micromanagers and business owners stuck in the past have a hard time inspiring productivity and loyalty from members of today’s labor pool. Granting autonomy, while still making staffers feel appreciated and included better embraces the expectations of today’s team members.

Flexibility Trumps Tradition

If there’s one consistent takeaway managing the ever-evolving work force, it’s the call for greater flexibility. Whether it’s accommodating personal time off or finding new ways to feed young workers’ career development needs, effective employers are not afraid to operate outside traditional lines, keeping staff focused and fulfilled.

Is your organization providing the support modern staffers need to succeed, or are you tied to traditions that get in the way?

If words like “controlling” and “overbearing” describe your business culture, it may be time to rework policies and practices, from the ground up. Forbes Agency Council shared these recommendations for improving company culture today:

  • Limitless Time Off – This won’t work for every business and should only be offered with the understanding the policy will be revoked if abused or counterproductive.
  • Innovation Opportunities – Employees are periodically pulled from their normal assignments to brainstorm and develop new products and concepts.
  • Work From Wherever – Takes remote work opportunities a step further, authorizing employees to do business from locales near or far. Proper planning and coordination facilitate productivity between far-flung team members.
  • Volunteer Together – Volunteering is a team-building exercise that not only brings together staff over shared goals, but also instills a mutual sense of achievement, helping others as a group.
  • Don’t Forget to Ask – Employees are your best source of guidance, shaping productive business culture. Ignoring their input risks missing opportunities to fine-tune your labor machine.

Business culture is easily overlooked during the hectic start-up stage of your venture, but without someone at the helm, your workplace dynamic can quickly take a turn for the worse. Whether you’re just getting started building a positive work environment, or correcting unacceptable conditions, a proactive approach helps your small business culture evolve with the work force.

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